Let’s be honest for a second, more often than not rap-rock is a match made in musical hell. From the agro-assault that is Limp Bizkit to Lil Wayne’ abysmal Rebirth record, the marriage of the two genres has yielded more strikes than successes. For every “Epic” or “Bring the Noise,” there’s always Linkin Park lurking just around the corner. So what are we to do when a rapper makes a full-on rock record? One that features no rapping or anything remotely resembling a “beat.” That nagging question is at the heart of Kid Cudi’s WZRD project.
For starters, Cudders made a wise choice to work exclusively with close-friend Dot Da Genius on WZRD. The psychedelic-sheen that enveloped previous collaborations “Marijuana” and “Trapped in My Mind,” is spread-out across the album’s 47 minutes and recalls a hazy-dream bordering on the nightmarish. The opening synth-swelter “Arrival” recalls 80s horror-movie schlock and sets the stage for the fuming “High Off Life,” which reads as a Black Sabbath demo, a band that is an admitted touchstone for the project.
WZRD proudly recalls more famous acts such as Sabbath, or Nine Inch Nails on the bad-acid trip track “Dr. Pill,” where Cudi’s upbeat singing is off-set by furiously-fuzzy guitar. Not being known as a singer, Cudi’s vocals serve the album well, particularly on stand-out “Teleport 2 Me, Jamie” where his touching-warble pines for a ghost of a girlfriend past. “I need your body right here,” he bemoans. Even with his new-found sobriety and daughter, this is still the same kid from Cleveland suffering from night terrors.
"Where Did You Sleep Last Night"
The nightmarishness of this album is palpable on “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” the cover of the classic Leadbelly track made famous by Nirvana. Cudi and Dot cut-close to the Nirvana rendering, but liven the song up with drum claps that descend into static. The alluring “Brake” also goes bump in the night, riding a slithering-guitar line and sporting beats pulled from an NES-game. Here Cudi is blindly-wandering through the darkness, no one to save him.
This darkness becomes reality on “Efflictim,” where Cudi contemplates suicide over a shuffling-guitar and wonders how people would feel if they found out he was dead. Coming to the realization that life is too short, Cudi bids a despondent adieu, his wordless vocals wafting into the night sky as the curtains close.
This shouldn’t have been a record that works and many will undoubtedly pigeonhole WZRD as Cudi’s vanity project. “The Dream Time Machine,” recalls lack-luster Cudi rap-offerings with the caveat of being “rock.” Propulsive “Love Hard,” sports a trifling “blah-blah-blah” opening and comes across as a “moodier” take on pop-punk. Nevertheless, the positives outweigh the negatives here. “I have matured so much, the boy has become a man,” he declares on closer “Upper Room.” For many of us maturing means settling-down and living in our comfort-zone, but not for Cudi. Cudi’s maturation is constantly-shifting in a strange musical land, knocking down barriers with effortless ease.
"Teleport 2 Me, Jamie"